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Two More Boats On Way To Gaza

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JERUSALEM – In the wake of Israel’s military operation against the Mavi Marmara (see main story, page 1), IDF General Staff Operations Commander Col. Itzik Turjeman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that two additional Hamas-supporting ships were on their way to Gaza. He said they too would be intercepted, hinting that electronic means might be used.

Asked why the Marmara was not stopped by the Navy without risking helicopter-borne soldiers rappelling down onto the ship, Turjeman said the Marmara was too large and heavy to have been physically blocked by navy ships.

MK Tzachi HaNegbi (Kadima), chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, opened the session by noting that “After Operation Cast Lead, the government decided to impose a maritime blockade on Gaza and that all cargo headed for Gaza would be checked first in the Ashdod port This issue is a matter of total consensus in Israel, and the reason is the sense of injustice that we all feel, the cynicism and hypocrisy that typify the attack on the State of Israel, and the sense we all have that the IDF’s operation yesterday was logical and ethical.

“We left Gaza five years ago, yet for years we have been attacked from Gaza, and our soldier Gilad Shalit is still being held in a dark dungeon in Gaza. We therefore feel that we have the right to act in the way we did.”

Acknowledging that many questions remain concerning the military operation, the intelligence that preceded it, and the PR efforts that followed, HaNegbi said “we will insist on investigating these matters and receiving answers.”

Several of the pro-Hamas activists wounded on the Marmara ship were hospitalized in several hospitals throughout Israel, guarded by military police. Dozens of others arrested after being taken off the flotilla’s ships were being questioned; some were being sent home, among them an American citizen.

Among those removed from the ships was Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He originally was thought to have been injured on the boat, leading to some Israeli-Arab rioting and much media speculation, but he is now known to be safe and sound.

Arab MK Hanin Zouabi (Balad) was on board the ship as well but was released because of her parliamentary immunity, infuriating some Knesset Members. “Our democracy has lost its direction,” said MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima). “We’ve reached the point where Arab citizens and MKs do whatever they wish. Zouabi’s parliamentary immunity must be removed and she should be arrested. I’d like to see her try similar protests in Arab countries let her join the Hamas regime in Gaza.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said, “Zouabi and her Hamas friends boarded this flotilla as [martyrs] who said that they knew they might die in the course of harming IDF soldiers. Instead of making peace, Zouabi started war on board the ship. Terror activists like her must not be permitted to return to the Knesset.”

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